Epiphany from a – not so experienced – user perspective

Diana Katherine Horqque examines the latest Epiphany web browser that runs exclusively on GNOME. If you haven’t given Epiphany a try lately, it might be worth your time. Epiphany is a lightweight and simple-to-use browser for when you just want to get things done.

Epiphany totally rocks

I started using Epiphany at the same time I entered into the world of Ubuntu. It is also very probable that my delight in the GNOME web browser is because it is a transcendent part of my first approach to a project of Free Software. And I’m aware of how lucky I am, because all the process involved with my first experience with Epiphany was very pleasant. I became familiar with using the application with little effort, and find great benefits from Epiphany that I could not enjoy in other browsers.

Reinout van Schouwen mentions in his essay Epiphany celebrates its second birthday! that although “Firefox enjoys massive popularity among GNU/Linux users, so much that even some distro vendors have opted to have Firefox as the default browser on their GNOME desktop, Epiphany’s developers consider this situation as an incentive to make Epiphany totally rock.” And they always have the perspective of what a GNOME web browser should be; all their reflections and actions are focused on this vision.

The essence is simplicity in use

Epiphany’s Manifesto refers to the Simplicity: “Epiphany aims to utilize the simplest interface possible for a browser. (…) Epiphany addresses simplicity with a small browser designed for the web.”

The essence of Epiphany is, obviously, browsing the web. And I relish the sweetness of their simplicity in something as simple as looking for some information. Just type the URL in the location bar and hit enter.

“The point of a good program is to do something specific and do it well.” Havoc Pennington

You think of me

The other interesting way to think of Epiphany is that the developers target non-technical users by design, and I consider myself to be apart of this group. So, they think that technical details should not be exposed in the interface and, for me, this is a good idea.

I consider Epiphany the expression of a good user interface and I would like to refer to Havoc Pennington in his essay about the Good User Interface: clean, simple, consistent productive. For me, the beauty, the truth and the glory of a interface is not in a “lot of features, or alternatively a lot of snazzy graphics”. They are not the heart of a good user interface.

The matter of preferences and integration

As I read in the Epiphany Manifesto, Havoc’s “main goal is to be integrated with the GNOME desktop.” For me, it’s interesting that the first priority of people who think and reflect on Epiphany and are behind its development is the exclusive integration with GNOME, and that they don’t feel compelled to make Epiphany usable outside of GNOME. This argument stems from the intuition that “the union of all features anyone’s ever seen in any equivalent application on any other historical platform” is not necessarily the path indicated to a good UI.

Havoc believes that “more preferences means fewer real features, and more bugs” and my intuition and experience tell me he is right. The Manifesto also mentions that developers work with this concept and considers: “at some point the existence of preferences means that everyone must configure their desktop; while ideally preferences are optional and the default behavior is reasonable without intervention. (…) Reflection should focus on when a preference should exist, and when it should not.”

The way I found the sweetness

Today, many browsers have a tabbed interface, and have developers who realized that it is much more effective to use a tabbed interface than separate windows to display multiple pages. However, I am inclined to believe that this feature was inherent in Epiphany since the beginning: Ctrl-T opens a new tab, Ctrl-W closes the tab, and Ctrl-Tab and Ctrl-Shift-Tab moves back and forth between the tabs.

To find links that you’ve already visited on a website is very simple. You just need to type the first letter(s) of a link and matches are highlighted. This feature is thanks to the Gecko technology embedded in Epiphany.

Those times when Epiphany crashes or when I have to restart my GNOME session while Epiphany was open, I, fortunately, can restore to my previous state.

The glorious parameter p

Thanks to Epiphany I can work with two sessions of different users within GMail. Before using this parameter, it was necessary log out of my GMail session to log into my other user. Since I constantly manage two separate accounts, the personal account and the account for volunteering, this feature is wonderful.

Running “epiphany -p” opens a “private” instance of Epiphany which works with a different window. This command won’t terminate until the browser is actually closed. This separate window is perfect for guest users that are using your computer (because you kindly lent them a few minutes) as it does not remember passwords or anything. When closing this window, all record of the guest user having used Epiphany are forgotten.

Also shown in the figure is that the “private” instance of Epiphany has no favorite bookmarks, so GMail, Twitter, Facebook, Hi5 or any other service will require your login passwords each time. After closing the window, it will forget all the information you used.

I feel involved with you

You can contact developers by sending a mail (epiphany-list@gnome.org) to the Epiphany mailing list. And the developers are also available to chat on IRC (irc://irc.gnome.org:6667/epiphany):
Red: GIMPNet
Server: irc.gnome.org
Channel: #epiphany

About the Author

Diana Katherine Horqque is – almost – a graduate of Industrial Engineering at PUCP (Lima – Peru), and is currently investigating her thesis on Sustainable Ecotourism in a Rural Education Environment (Project “Fe y Alegría”), as a result of her volunteer experience in the Peruvian Amazon. Nowadays she is highly motivated to deepen and learn more about the phenomenology of perception from Merleau-Ponty.

Discuss this story with other readers on the GNOME forums.

Posted on November 6, 2009, in November 2009. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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